May the best man win.
Its the essence of team sports and Irish Defensive Coordinator Jon Tenuta knows no other approach. Playing time for a young group of Irish linebackers will be determined by their performance in every drill, practice, and snap this fall and through Bowl season.
And this August's pseudo-slogan of production rather than rhetoric? Tenuta knows no other way.
Assistant Head Coach - Defense/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Jon Tenuta
When asked about the talent in the defensive backfield:
"The pressure is always on the corners. The safeties in the scheme sometimes can be linebackers…but sometimes they have to be DBs, too. In the scheme – they're always the guys fitting for whomever's plugging, but the pressure's going to be on the corners."
Regarding a follow-up question concerning his confidence in the cornerbacks:
"Well in Spring Ball, with Darrin Walls coming back – we have some good corners, so I feel pretty good about it."
On the area in which the Irish need improvement:
"Obviously we have to be better at stopping the run and the pressure package has to help us be better at stopping the passing game."
On his philosophy of constant pressure vs. the opponent:
"All you have to do is watch my reels – ya, I'm going to be a pressure guy."
Regarding Coach Weis' press conference comments that it's time to produce on the field:
"Well I've always been under that philosophy – the bottom line is production; you have to produce. So that's no different than what I've been around for 29 years. That's what we've done and that's how I am. So I totally agree."
Regarding the team's depth:
"Obviously you get excited every year when football comes around. You enjoy your players, so that's a plus. And going through spring ball you see how the guys that didn't play much (the previous season) do in spring ball. And now (fall camp) you bring the new freshman guys in…you put them all together and see what you got."
On freshman LB Manti Te'o:
"You put him in with everyone else and see what happens. Now obviously he's got a lot more tools than some guys so we'll see what happens."
Tenuta was asked a follow-up question regarding the hype surrounding Te'o and the pressure to perform:
"I'm sure there is – I'm sure there's a lot of (hype). He's a heck of a player and he's going to battle with the other guys. I'm going to be firm, fair, and consistent like I always am with all the guys and (we'll see) if he comes to the top."
When asked about his play-calling process:
"Obviously, we try to match up personnel the best we can. Our defensive personnel to their offensive personnel and what are they going to do by down and distance. All those things come into play...and where the ball is on the field (determines) what we're going to do."
When asked about redshirt freshman DE Kapron Lewis-Moore's ascension to No.1 on the depth chart:
"There's no question he has tremendous athletic ability. He's got the size now. He's got tremendous explosion. He can really move and battle with anybody whether it's a tackle, a guard, or a center. There's so much upside to him that's he's ready to rock and roll."
On my question regarding the progress of redshirt freshmen linebackers Anthony McDonald and David Posluszny and sophomore Steve Filer (who played almost exclusively special teams last season):
"I think the tough thing for Mac is that Mac's been hurt…he's a guy that I think a lot of people have overlooked but he's a guy with tremendous instincts; he's a great kid and hopefully he can fight through this knee (injury) as times goes on.
"Posluszny had a good spring. So I'm very positive with Poz. I look for good things from all those guys. All of those three true freshmen that played for me last year – and now I have Darius Fleming back with me – with McDonald, Posluszny, and Filer – there's four guys that are all talented in different ways, they'll be pushing and now they understand the system because they've gone through the spring."
Answering my follow-up question regarding the young players' versatility (aside from Fleming):
"(Steve) Filer's better closer to the line of scrimmage. And like I said with McDonald, he's a very instinctive guy off the line of scrimmage and he reads and sees things very well but again, and knock on wood, hopefully he stays healthy enough to show everybody what he can do."
(Note – I mentioned I saw Posluszny as a middle linebacker so he was omitted from Coach Tenuta's response).
Jon Tenuta talks about competition among Irish linebackers.
Coach Tenuta is ready to work with a young and deep linebacker corps.